By Dan Froomkin
11:00 AM ET, 03/16/2009
Adam Nagourney writes in the New York Times: "The Obama administration is increasingly concerned about a populist backlash against banks and Wall Street, worried that anger at financial institutions could also end up being directed at Congress and the White House and could complicate President Obama's agenda. The administration's sharp rebuke of the American International Group on Sunday for handing out $165 million in executive bonuses — Lawrence H. Summers, director of the president's National Economic Council, described it as 'outrageous' on 'This Week' on ABC — marks the latest effort by the White House to distance itself from abuses that could feed potentially disruptive public anger.... A central question for Mr. Obama is whether his cool style... will prove effective when the country may be feeling more emotional."
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich writes for Talking Points Memo: "This sordid story of government helplessness in the face of massive taxpayer commitments illustrates better than anything to date why the government should take over any institution that's 'too big to fail' and which has cost taxpayers dearly."
Daniel Gross writes for Newsweek: "Investment professionals and econo-pundits claiming to speak for Wall Street have been blaming President Obama for the recent run of losses in the stock market...Talk about misplaced anger. Wall Street built a wooden house, stuffed it with flammable material, set it on fire and then poured gasoline on the blaze. And now it's blaming the inferno on the arson inspector, who wasn't appointed until after the fire had reached three-alarm status?"
John Harwood writes in the New York Times that there is a way for Obama to achieve "his huge health care and energy goals" without "begging, pleading and negotiating for help from Republicans....Here is how: Congressional Democrats pursue Mr. Obama's agenda under the arcane rules of 'budget reconciliation.'" In that way, his policies "could pass Congress this year by a simple majority vote — in a single budget bill with historic health and energy policy changes that Republicans could not filibuster."
Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post: "President Obama accused the Bush administration [Saturday] of creating a 'hazard to public health' by failing to curb food contamination problems, and he announced new leadership and other changes aimed at modernizing food-safety laws....'There are certain things only a government can do,' Obama said. 'And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat, and the medicines we take, are safe and do not cause us harm.' The announcements signaled another shift from the policies of President George W. Bush, whom Democrats accused of ignoring a worsening food-safety problem and politicizing the work of the FDA. The changes also follow outbreaks of illness from pathogens in food, including peanut products contaminated with salmonella that have killed nine and sickened more than 700 in recent months."
James Traub writes in the New York Times Magazine about the Bush library-and-institute project at Southern Methodist University: "To critics, then, the institute sounds like a walled preserve within which the strange ideological growths of the Bush era will proliferate — with S.M.U.'s good name affording them intellectual legitimacy. 'You can be sure that there will be a book on the privatization of Social Security,' predicts Thomas Knock, a professor of American history, 'or on creationism, or on the doctrine of pre-emptive war.' He and others are half-convinced that Bush will appoint his friend Karl Rove as the first executive director."
Hans Nichols and Jonathan D. Salant write for Bloomberg: "President Barack Obama will headline the first fundraiser of his presidency this month, appealing to donors large and small even as the economy struggles through the worst recession in generations. Obama's appearance at the Democratic National Committee's March 25 event at the Warner Theatre in Washington, with tickets ranging from $100 to $2,500 per person, will be an early test of his ability to keep up the record-breaking fundraising he achieved during the campaign."
Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post: "The Middle East press has questioned President Obama's authority over Arab-Israeli issues since Charles W. Freeman Jr.'s withdrawal from his appointment to a senior intelligence position."
Robert Dreyfuss interviews Freeman for the Nation. Says Freeman: "Basically what Denny Blair wanted was a broadly experienced iconoclast, which some people says fits me as a description. And somebody who wasn't afraid to tell it like he saw it, or to ask people writing things for him why he's so sure about X, Y, or Z. Do they know that because everybody knows it, or do they have some evidence? And one could argue that is fairly critical in a number of contexts." For the Israeli lobby to push him out based on his insufficiently supportive views, he says, "was a nice way of, as the Chinese say, killing a chicken to scare the monkeys."
Michael A. Fletcher profiles Valerie Jarrett for The Washington Post: "Jarrett, 52, serves as senior adviser to the president, and she oversees the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. She is the principal contact for groups wanting to reach the White House....She also recommends and interviews people for top jobs in the administration, is a daily presence in the president's senior staff meetings, and is someone Obama often calls on for a reality check. But Jarrett's array of titles and duties fail to convey the breadth of her influence, which is rooted in a long relationship built on a foundation of trust with the Obamas."
Mark Leibovich writes in the New York Times: "While there has always been a hearty appetite for stories — and trivia — about the people in a new administration, today's White House press corps (competing for up-to-the-second news) has elevated the most banal doings to a coveted 'get.'"